Tag Archives: class

Helheim class and review

2015-05-09 17.15.51 helheimIt is hard to say too much about Helheim without spoiling the story, so I will keep this brief. First, I liked it. It is a relatively self-contained story with an engaging, vaguely Norse setting that focuses on an undead warrior and some witches. (What more could you want?) The art is a bit photoshop for my taste (flat in both color and line), but it gets the story across just fine and has some creative character visuals. The setup would work nicely for a small faction-based overland adventure. The depiction of the supernatural is good too; recognizable but not cliche. Overall, recommended.

You can get it at Comixology, and notably the publisher has enabled DRM-free access to PDF and CBZ formats. Just checking that, it looks like there is a followup series, Brides of Helheim, but the collected edition is not out yet and I have not read it. Helheim is by Cullen Bunn and Joëlle Jones. You can find more info about Cullen Bunn at his site. He’s also behind The Sixth Gun.

Here is a PDF version of the class detailed below.

Helheim class

  • HD, attack, save, and XP as fighter
  • Benefits: toughness (damage reduction), body augmentation, undeath
  • Drawbacks: recovery and charisma loss, stench, no missile weapons

A helheim is a zombie raised from the body of a hero or person with otherwise exceptional will. Such zombies are often employed by witches as enforcers of curses or avengers. Sometimes, the witch’s necromancy is not sufficient to fully dominate the creature, however, and the helheim becomes free.

Toughness: Helheims ignore 3 points of damage from mundane weapons, including claws and teeth. Each time a helheim suffers damage, they lose one point of charisma permanently. These points never return, and represent the descent of the helheim into a mass of patchwork, stitched flesh.

Augmentation: As helheims grow in power, they may incorporate body parts from defeated foes. For each experience level, a helheim can incorporate one special body part. Such parts may be added or replaced during downtime with surgery, but only from fresh bodies slain by the helheim’s own hand in combat. The remains of an execution will not do, being tainted by passivity and oppression, the qualities most inimical to a zombie-creature’s autonomy. Incorporated parts may grant additional capabilities. For example, a harpy’s wings might grant awkward flight. Actual abilities may be less literal, however, as negotiated between player and referee. Any powers granted should be determined with an eye toward maintaining future challenge within the game.

Undeath: Helheims do not need to eat or breathe, but they must periodically fall into reverie, much like sleep, to retain their humanity. Otherwise, the helheim will slip back into a partially catatonic state waiting for necromantic commands.

Recovery: Helheims do not recover as normal. Instead, damaged limbs or body parts must be physically stitched back together or replaced. Any necromancer or mundane surgeon can accomplish this task, but a helheim may not repair themselves without assistance.

Stench: The stink of the grave is never entirely absent from a helheim, as the zombie body is continually rotting from the flux of necromantic energy. This stench makes it impossible for a helheim to surprise enemies with a sense of smell unless chaotic circumstances would make such senses useless.

Weapons: For all their great strength, a helheim’s motor control and visual acuity are crude. Though they can use thrown weapons such as daggers and small axes, they cannot effectively use missile weapons. Beyond several hundred feet their undead eyes perceive only a phantasmagoric riot of swampy color.

The helheim class is suitable either for new first level characters or as an option for deceased player characters raised from the dead.

2015-05-09 17.26.06 helheim

Necromancer class

Several of my favorite archetypes are rarely handled as classes in a way that satisfies me, including the necromancer, summoner, and warlock/diabolist. It is possible to simulate these types of characters in traditional D&D, but only with a specific set of spells and a higher level magic-user. In a game where you are playing to find out what kind of magic-user you become based on the spells you find this can be fun, but if you are looking to play a particular kind of magician from the beginning it can be something of a letdown.

I have already attempted to create a necromancer class, but in review that approach (with variable undead creation costs) feels a bit clunky and bases too much of the necromancer’s primary competency (undead minions) on treasure cash flow. Like a traditional magic-user’s spell preparation, the necromancer should be able to recover thralls as part of the basic resource cycle. As such, there is no cost for the basic creation and maintenance of undead thralls. Procuring corpses may still require adventuring, depending on the setting, and each body can only be used once. Scarcity of corpses can thus be used to modulate thrall disposability, but the expectation is that necromancers should be able to burn through a collection of thralls between each downtime if desired.

This necromancer does not gain new spells automatically and can only learn necromancy spells. These can be found (unlikely, as the referee is not expected to tailor treasure found to desires of specific PCs) or researched at a cost of 1000 coins per spell level. In a game where treasure yields the bulk of XP, I would expect necromancer PCs to spend most of their money on researching new spells (or making scrolls of known spells, if that is an option allowed to magic-users). This also means players can handle most spell choices on their own between sessions, only relying on the referee for final approval, easing the administrative load.

Allowing any magic spell to be re-skinned with necromantic trappings (“skeleton key” as a knock spell, negative energy blast rather than magic missile, and so forth) will likely make this class overpowered (and also indistinct). So don’t do that. Require necromancy spells to be taken from existing books or newly designed around strong (and limited) necromantic themes. This necromancer is intended to play differently than the traditional magic-user.

There is a PDF convenient for printing front and back on one letter-sized sheet.


Level progression, HP, saves, attack, weapons, armor, and spell slots as magic-user.

  • Prepare and cast only necromancy spells
  • Maintain control over up to 1 HD worth of undead per level
  • Assert control over undead as an action
  • Direct any or all controlled undead as an action
  • Create and repair undead minions up to 1 HD per level per downtime
  • Will not generally be served by mortal retainers other than apprentices

Spells and magic items

Given that the chance of finding many necromancy spells during play without fudging is low, necromancers of any level may research new spells during downtime. This requires 1000 XP-equivalent currency units per spell level and takes one downtime action irrespective of spell level. Necromancers may only research new spells of a level that can be prepared. Necromancers may craft scrolls of known necromancy spells following the rules used by magic-users and may only use scrolls, wands, staves, or other wizardly magic items that have a strong necromancy component.

Control and direct undead

Death and the miser (source)

Death and the miser (source)

Necromancers may maintain control over a number of HD worth of undead equal to level. No check is required, but asserting control takes an action if done in combat. Intelligent undead deserve a saving throw and a necromancer only gets one try when attempting to influence such beings. Directing newly controlled undead must wait for another action.

Most created undead have dim and limited intelligence. They can only follow crude commands and are unable to perform complicated tasks. An action such as “pull that lever” is about the limit of undead sophistication. As an action, a necromancer may direct (or modify previous directions for) any or all currently controlled undead. Directions must be clear and vocalized but need not be overly specific. For example, “attack those orcs” is acceptable; there is no need to declare exactly which orc should be attacked.

Actions available include attack (a target), defend (a person), follow (a person or thing), guard (a location), move (to a nearby place), patrol (an area), and retrieve (a nearby item). Minions will intuit needed movement given an attack command, but may not choose the smartest route on their own. Minions instructed to defend will hold actions and use opposed combat rolls to determine the success of a potential interception.

This structure means that a necromancer can either take an action themselves during a turn (such as cast a spell) or redirect minions but not both. Undead will continue to follow existing directions until new directions are provided.

Undead become uncontrolled upon the death (though not unconsciousness) of a necromancer master and uncontrolled undead without directions are hostile to all life. A necromancer may release undead minions from service at will.

Create undead

During downtime, necromancers may create or repair a number of HD worth of undead equal to level. This may result in a necromancer having created more undead than can be controlled. Excess undead are uncontrolled and hostile to all life. The propensity of necromancers to create uncontrolled “spares” that often get loose is no small part of the profession’s generally poor reputation. Strictly speaking, no resources are needed other than corpses that have not been previously animated, though in practice a private ritual sanctum is necessary for the sake of privacy (necromancy being widely vilified as black magic). Created undead are by default a form of zombie. Other undead may be controlled but must be discovered in play or created with the aid of augmentation spells.

HD may be allocated as desired between multiple minions. For example, a fourth level necromancer may create 4 minions of 1 HD each, one minion of 4 HD, or some other combination. Undead minions attack and save as a creature of the appropriate HD, have an AC bonus equal to HD, move in combat as a lightly encumbered human (three-quarters of an unencumbered human’s rate), and gain no benefit other than style from armor. Damage is by weapon or 1d6 from fearsome unarmed strike. Undead are not effective porters and have a tendency to hide or vandalize carried objects other than raiment or armament when unsupervised.


Even if being strict about weapon usage, it is suggested that necromancers be allowed to wield sickles and scythes because of the symbolic value of these tools to the craft of necromancy.

  • Sickle: as dagger, not throwable, 1d4 damage
  • Scythe: as staff, requires two hands, slashing rather than bludgeoning, 1d6 damage

Good sources of necromancy spells for use with traditional class-and-level fantasy games:

Image by Millet (source)

Image by Millet (source)

Thanks to Duncan E. for suggesting Holbein as an illustration source.

Dragon class

Below you can find a PC dragon class designed for use with various traditional tabletop fantasy RPGs. It assumes a relatively restrained power curve (think 3 LBBs) and thus might need to be punched up slightly if used with games that have a higher power expectation (just increasing HD and natural attack damage would probably be enough). I imagine it should work just fine for FLAILSNAILS play as is.

A two-page PDF version is also available.

Other Character Types: There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as let us say, a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee.

— Gary Gygax, Men & Magic, page 8

  • XP progression and attack as fighter
  • 1d6 HP per level, up to 10d6
  • When gaining a level, +1 strength and +1 constitution (max 18) to reflect physical development

Adventuring dragons are usually disowned runts or survivors of insufficiently thorough paladin attacks. Solitary young dragons are usually killed if encountered by civilized folk and so may seek the protection of a treasure-hunting adventuring company. Dragon PCs speak common and the language of dragons.

Dragon progression and abilities by level
Level 1-3 4-6 7-9 10+
Description whelp wyrmling wyrm dragon
Size small medium large huge
Flight long jump half normal speed standard standard + hover
AC chain (5 [14]) chain + shield (4 [15]) plate (3 [16]) plate + shield (2 [17])
Melee attack 1d6 1d6+1 2d6 2d6+1


Image by Jacob Grimm (source)

Image by Jacob Grimm (source)

The appearance of dragons varies greatly. Scales are most commonly dark green with orange or white underbellies, but dull black and shades of deep blood red exist as well. Dragons age at varying rates based on successfulness accumulating treasure. Dragon size ranges from that of a large hound (whelp) to that of an elephant when full grown (tenth level). The bulk of even a full-grown dragon is sinuous, and can fit through standard doors if wings are furled. Openings smaller than doors may present difficulties, however.


Dragon claws are not suited to fighting with weapons or manipulating anything much more complicated than a door handle, so dragons cannot use weapons effectively. Dragons prefer to walk on all four legs, but can hold an item in each fore claw when not moving. Armor is awkward for dragons, and hinders as much as it helps. As such, dragons gain no AC benefit from wearing armor, though dragon scales naturally gain in toughness as dragon level increases.

Dragons can carry a number of significant items equal to strength, given harnesses and saddlebags, but much prefer not to, opting instead to have servants perform such manual labor. Dragons can use wands and staves, but no other magic items.

Breathing fire

A dragon’s flaming breath does 1d6 damage per level (save for half), with area coverage also equal to level. Thus, a third level dragon’s fire can catch up to 3 human-sized targets within its area and deals 3d6 damage (with a save allowed for half damage). Dragons may breath fire no more than once per exploration turn. Further, the total number of times a dragon breathes fire per day may not exceed dragon level. Dragon fire can damage enemies that require magic or silver weapons to hit.

Some dragons have deadly breath of types other than fire (acid, lightning, frost, etc). With referee permission, you can choose a type other than fire. In any case, dragons are immune to damage of a type that they can breathe. For example, an acid-breathing dragon is entirely immune to acid damage.

Gaining levels

Dragons gain 1 XP for each GP worth of treasure accumulated in a hoard. If the hoard is depleted, no XP is lost, but no new XP is gained either until the hoard is replenished. A dragon’s XP total never rises above the hoard value. Funds spent on hoard guards, traps, interior decorators, and other home improvements do not count towards hoard value. Hoards consist of glittery things that you can sleep on and show off to guests.

A lair must be established to store this hoard. Assuming the dragon takes reasonable precautions, there is little risk of burglary, though the referee is within rights to occasionally use stolen hoard elements as adventure hooks, assuming that clues are left behind.


Whelps, with the aid of furiously beating wings, can reliably jump 10 feet high or 15 feet forward. Whelps may also fall an extra 10 feet without taking damage. Wyrmlings can fly awkwardly at half human movement rate, with a wing action that is the flying equivalent of doggy paddle. Wyrms can fly with more aptitude as long as movement is constant, or can fly awkwardly if also carrying something up to the size and mass of a human. Full-grown dragons can fly with agility and hover indefinitely given enough space to beat their wings. At this stage, a dragon could serve as a mount for a human and still fly well, though few dragons will do so as it is considered demeaning.

Genie binder

Image by Henry Justice Ford (source)

Image by Henry Justice Ford (source)

I was just recently glancing through the D&D Classics PDF of Arabian Adventures, and thus reminded about the sha’ir class, which is a wizard that consorts with genies. Conceptually, the sha’ir shares space with the warlock as a class that derives magic from powerful, but probably sub-divine, entities. As written in Arabian Adventures, genies bring the sha’ir spells, which can then be cast. While the concept is great, the second edition mechanics leave something to be desired, so here is a simpler take on a similar idea.

A formatted PDF version of this class is available.

Genie binder class

  • Hit dice, saves, and combat as magic-user
  • Genie consultation (see below)

I do not generally do weapon or armor restrictions, but if I did the list would be dagger, staff, scimitar, and light (leather) armor.

Unlike most sorcerers, genie binders do not use magic directly. Instead, they study the cosmic bureaucracy and compel services from minor genies. These minor genies have an aspect which determines the nature of their magical powers. Sample genie aspects include fire, time, desire, storms, and so forth (appropriate aspects should be less general and more specific).

Between downtimes, a genie binder may compel a number of genie services equal to class level. Thus, a third level binder may compel three services. Bound genies are not generally helpful types, and delight in following commands to the letter and twisting meaning where possible.

Services include commanding the genie to:

  • Perform a complex task
  • Retrieve a magic spell from another dimension
  • Engage in combat for an encounter

The material form of a bound genie becomes more impressive as the genie binder gains experience levels. At first level, bound genies are small, usually humanoid, creatures of between one and two feet tall with otherwise unique (but fixed) characteristics that reflect a genie’s particular cosmic aspect. They maintain their general form but increase in size and power as the binder’s experience level increases. Bound genie hit dice and combat stats while in material form are as a magic-user of one level lower than the binder (and thus as a zero level person for first level binders) with an armor class bonus equal to genie binder level. Slain genies are not fully destroyed, but merely banished to genie-land, and can be summoned back as a downtime action.

Bound genies have the ability to fly and to inhabit a specially prepared talisman (such as a lamp, jar, or other solid container which is equivalent to at least one encumbrance slot).

A genie binder may only ever have one bound genie in service, but may dismiss that genie at any time and summon another (as a downtime action). Binding a new genie only has a 3 in 6 chance of success, however, so previously bound genies are not generally dismissed lightly, though dismissal is the only way for a genier binder to gain access to a genie with a different aspect.

Retrieving magic spells

Bound genies may be sent to retrieve magic spells. Any spells sought must be related to the genie aspect (by referee ruling). For example, a genie of desire aspect would be able to retrieve charm person, but not fireball. Spells from any spell list may be used with referee permission. The maximum spell level of retrieved spells is equal to binder level divided by two, rounded up and a genie can hold only one spell at a time (the spell must be used before another spell can be retrieved). Fetching a spell takes one exploration turn per spell level.

Skeleton class

Most skeletons are mindless automatons, but a select few have free will and autonomy, and find themselves on the path of adventure. Small flames hover in a skeleton’s eye sockets, and their voices have a strange character, either high and shrill or dull and seeming to echo from a great distance.

  • XP progression, armor, weapons, attacks, and saves as fighter
  • Max level 4
  • Natural AC as light armor if unarmored
  • Fourth level skeletons are known as skeleton heroes

The general creepiness of talking to an obviously undead creature gives skeletons a -2 reaction roll penalty in polite society.

Automatic reconstitution

When reduced to zero HP, a skeleton falls apart (no save is allowed). However, if the bones are not scattered or smashed into powder, the skeleton will reassemble after one exploration turn passes. If the referee is uncertain, intelligent enemies have a base 2 in 6 chance to destroy skeleton remains following a battle where the skeleton’s remains are left behind.

Special defenses

Additionally, skeletons are not easily damaged by all attacks. When hit, the damage taken depends upon the type of weapon, and is:

  • 1 damage from piercing weapons
  • Half damage (round down) from slashing weapons (includes claws)
  • Full damage from bludgeoning or crushing attacks (included bites)

Skeletons do not require sustenance, do not need to breathe, and are immune to sleep and charm magic.


Like all undead, skeletons are vulnerable to being turned or commanded (as an undead of HD equal to their level). However, PC skeletons have exceptional power of will, and are thus additionally permitted a saving throw versus any turn effects. Skeletons may reconstitute as described above following D (“destroyed”) results.

Le triomphe de la mort (source)

Le triomphe de la mort (source)

Rethel - Horse final death (cropped, source)

Rethel – Horse final death (cropped, source)

Thanks to Jason Z. and Roger G. S. for suggestions regarding appropriate images.

2014-06-14: mods for skeleton without level limits:

  • Class: choose fighter or magician
  • HP: divide by two, round up (after mods) to represent fragility
  • No save at zero HP or negative HP (skeleton just falls apart)
  • Reconstitute after one turn with chance 5 in 6 (ignore stuff about smashing bones)

So there is a 1 in 6 chance of final death any time you are reduced to 0 HP and otherwise you come back after 1 turn.

Assassins & Poison

Max Klinger, Rivals (source)

Max Klinger, Rivals (source)

Recently, when compiling a document of Finchbox classes, I noticed that, especially after basic house-rule adjustments, the assassin and thief classes seemed awfully similar. Both had d6 HD, light armor skill, backstab, low attack bonus, and a (slightly different) collection of skills. The only significant contrast was that assassins had disguise and poison-craft whereas thieves had the troubleshooting skills (search, find/remove traps, open locks, etc).

This is not enough to justify two separate classes for me, so the choice is to either reformulate the assassin or drop it. Another approach, I suppose, would be to replace both classes with something like the LotFP specialist, which can be customized, but I already know I don’t want to do that. For these rules, I prefer to have more focused, atmospheric classes. And I do want to keep the assassin as an option. So here is a modified S&W assassin, focused more on the ideal of single-shot kills (compared to the opportunism and utility that comprises the essence of the thief). Both classes still have backstab, but the increased martial focus of this assassin, along with the added poison-craft subsystem (described below), and lack of dungeon utility skills, distinguish the two classes. Max level in this game is 10.

The poison-craft description is still somewhat wordy, and I hope to tighten it up in the future, but for now this should be good enough to communicate the rules. I, of course, reserve the right to modify the poison rules if they don’t satisfy me in play. More poison recipes will be added later to bring the total above 10, so that high-level assassins don’t converge in poison knowledge.

Edit: added PDF version.


  • Hit die and weapon damage: d8
  • Starting saving throw: 15
  • Armor training: medium
  • Attack bonus: medium

Special abilities & restrictions:

  • Backstab: +4 to attack from surprise, +HD damage (5th: +2HD, 9th: +3HD)
  • Poison recipes, one per level (odd: random, even: pick)
  • Ambusher: a party with an assassin is more likely to surprise enemies (usually, 4 in 6)
  • Skills: disguise, poison-craft, stealth (as thief of same level)
  • Optional: vow of guild loyalty and guild connections


A flask of poison may be concocted as a downtime action for 100 SP. Applying poison to a weapon requires a poison kit (which is a significant item), an exploration turn, and a poison-craft check to see if the poison is used up. Each time the assassin hits with a poisoned weapon, another poison-craft check should be made to see if the poison application has worn off. In any case, a poison application will not last longer than a single excursion. Poison may also be extracted from a poisonous slain creature with a successful poison-craft check (this requires a downtime action, but doesn’t involve any expense). Any number of poisons may be carried in a poison kit without consuming further encumbrance slots.


  1. Affliction: +1d6 damage
  2. Anticoagulant: if further wounded, takes 1d6 bleed damage per round (save ends)
  3. Blindness: target is struck blind (new save allowed 1/day)
  4. Debilitation: -2 physical penalty, +1 damage from any attacks
  5. Delirium: unable to focus, hallucinations, actions have random targets
  6. Doom: death after one exploration turn
  7. Mage-bane: unable to cast spells (new save allowed 1/day)
  8. Paralysis: unable to move (new save allowed 1/exploration turn)
  9. Sleep: slumber for 8 hours (new save allowed if damaged)
  10. Suggestion: groggy, will obey general commands (charisma check needed)

All poisons allow a save to avoid the effect, and generally work only on living creatures approximately human-sized or less. Effects on other creatures are by referee ruling.

Warrior Class

Like the rogue and sorcerer classes, this warrior class is designed around the trichotomy of untrained, trained, and mastered. For warriors, these concepts are applied to weapons, armor, and shields. Similar to the other two classes in this line of development, the warrior uses the high rationalized hit dice progression and hit dice dice as attack bonus.

One improvement option is chosen each time a character gains a level. A character must have training in something before mastery.

This post completes a three-fold division of adventuring types. As discussed previously, the structural difference between the main classes is combat/renewable resource (fighter), combat/consumable resource (magic-user), utility/renewable resource (thief), and utility/consumable resource (magic-user). This scheme implements that structure by making warriors the only class that gets better at using weapons (renewable combat resources), rogues the only class that gets better at using skills (renewable utility resources), and sorcerers the only class that gets better at using spells (consumable combat & utility resources). It is also worth noting that the split is not complete, as all classes increase to some degree in hit dice, which gives sorcerers and rogues some minimal development in renewable combat resources, though much less than the warrior.

As you might suspect, I have thought about how classes might gain cross-class training. For example, how do you handle a sorcerer wishing to gain training in a sword or a warrior wishing to gain training in a spell? The approach I favor is simple, but must wait for a future post.


Initial training:

  • Four weapons from any weapons list.
  • Light armor, heavy armor, and shields.

Improvement options: weapon training, weapon mastery, heavy armor mastery, shield mastery.


  • Simple: dagger, staff, spear, club
  • Light: short sword, bow, sling
  • Heavy: long sword, mace, axe, pole-arm, longbow, 2H sword

Untrained Weapons

Attack rolls are penalized by four with untrained weapons.

Trained Weapons

Attack rolls are not penalized when wielding trained weapons. Training also often unlocks weapon-specific options (for example, daggers may only be thrown by characters with dagger training).

Mastered Weapons

Mastered weapons deal an extra point of damage. Mastery also optionally allows special weapon properties to be used (such as the long bow’s volley attack).


Are considered as trained for all characters, have a further bonus against armored targets, require a round to reload, may not be mastered, and are controlled munitions (any character not in a lord’s uniform carrying one will have it confiscated at the very least, and likely expelled from town or thrown into prison).

Armor & Shields

  • Light armor: leather (AC +2)
  • Heavy armor: chain (AC +4), plate (AC +6)

Armor Penalties

Wearing armor imposes two kinds of penalties on characters, a general physical penalty and a skill penalty. The general physical penalty applies to attack rolls, physical saving throws, and physical ability checks. This penalty depends on armor type (leather = -1, chain = -2, plate = -3), and is cumulative with any penalty from encumbrance.

Skills that require general agility (climb, stealth, and steal) are penalized by 1 if wearing chain armor and 2 if wearing plate armor. Skills are not penalized by leather armor.

Armor Training

There are two kinds of armor training, light and heavy. Light armor training applies to leather and similar armors, while heavy armor training applies to chain and plate armors. Having training in armor removes the physical penalty but does not remove the skill penalty. A character must be trained in light armor before being trained in heavy armor.

Heavy Armor Mastery

Characters with heavy armor mastery gain +1 AC when using exceptional armor, and decreases the skill penalty by 1. Exceptional heavy armor must be purchased at great expense (exact cost should vary based on available materials and labor, but ten times normal cost would be a reasonable baseline). Further, rare materials may be required for the crafting.

No benefit is gained from mastering light armor.

Untrained Shield Use

Untrained shield users gain +1 AC, but only when they focus on using the shield to the exclusion of all else.

Shield Training

Characters with shield training gain +1 AC when using a shield in combat.

Shield Mastery

Characters with shield mastery gain +2 AC when using a shield in combat.

Sorcerer Class

This sorcerer class was designed around the level-agnostic spells, and uses the same trichotomy of untrained, trained, and mastered that is behind the recently posted rogue class, but applied to spells rather than skills. It will most likely be included as an optional rule in Wonder & Wickedness.

Like the rogue, the sorcerer uses the standard fighter experience table, the low rationalized hit dice progression, and attack bonus is derived from hit dice. A table of simple weapons was included in the rogue post, so I see no need to duplicate it here.

It should be emphasized that only trained spells may be prepared in the traditional Vancian manner. Sorcerers begin with three trained spells and gain training in a new spell (or mastery of an already trained spell) with each level gained. Other spells may only be cast laboriously from magical texts, even by sorcerers. This is all explained in the training & mastery rules for spells, but is nonetheless worth emphasizing due to how it differs from the way most traditional fantasy role-playing games work.

Currently, I have untrained spells succeeding 50% of the time (4+ on 1d6), with a 1 in 6 chance of catastrophe. I also considered using a saving throw, with catastrophe on a natural 1, but am dissatisfied with that approach because high-level non-sorcerer classes would end up having a better chance at casting spells successfully than a low-level sorcerers, which does not feel right to me (despite how elegant it would be to use a saving throw). An intelligence check is another option, though standard roll-under would require catastrophe on natural 20, which I also don’t care for. I am still somewhat conflicted, but I believe the current d6 approach, though somewhat ad hoc, has the desired properties, and is not hard to remember. Obviously it would be easy to swap out the system used for casting untrained spells, and the only absolutely critical feature, from my point of view, is that it be possible for all classes to attempt, but somewhat dangerous.


Initial training:

Improvement options: spell training, spell mastery.


  • Untrained: from book, 1 day, uncertain success, possible catastrophe.
  • Trained: may be prepared, expended when cast.
  • Mastered: double duration, 50% chance not expended when cast.

Untrained Spells

Characters with no magical training, including those other than sorcerers, can still attempt sorcery, assuming access to a book with the appropriate spell. This takes a full day of feverish application, and succeeds only 50% of the time (four or higher on a six-sided die). Further, calling upon magic without training is dangerous, and if this roll is a 1, the spell fails in some disastrous and potentially dangerous (even deadly) manner, as appropriate to the spell in question.

Trained Spells

Trained spells may be prepared for use later, though they are expended when cast and must be re-prepared before they can be cast again. Spell preparation requires access to the spell in textual form. Trained spells may be prepared after a restful night of sleep in a place of safety.

Mastered Spells

Mastered spells have double duration, may be prepared without need of a spell book (though sufficient rest is still required), and only have a 50% chance of being expended when cast.

Rogue Class

Here is a draft of a new rogue class I developed recently. It uses the Gravity Sinister skills, though skill improvement is simplified into categories of untrained, trained, and mastered (which translate into chances of success on a six-sided die).

One improvement option is chosen each time a character gains a level. A character must have training in something before mastery.

Regarding experience tables, my inclination recently has been to use the fighter progression for everyone. The rogue uses the medium rationalized hit dice progression, and attack bonus is also derived from hit dice.

The omission of a separate sneak attack or backstab ability is intentional. I am thinking that surprise attacks are probably better handled independent of class in terms of effect (an extra die of damage seems reasonable), and the stealth skill grants rogues a better chance of setting up a surprise attack in any case. A separate backstab-type skill also focuses too much on damage per round type calculations for my taste.

Rules for simple and light weapons are also included with streamlined weapon properties for ease of reference at the bottom of the post.


Initial training:

  • Two weapons from the simple or light weapons lists.
  • Light armor.
  • Three skills.

Improvement options: skill training, skill mastery.


Skills are divided into basic and expert categories:

  • Basic skills: Climb, Listen, Search, Stealth
  • Expert skills: Devices, Locks, Steal

Skills that require general agility (climb, stealth, and steal) are penalized by one if wearing chain armor and two if wearing plate armor. Using a skill often takes some time and thus may require spending an exploration turn in focused application.

The climb skill allows allows the climbing of surfaces such as rough walls. Climbing a rope or ladder does not require a skill check. There is a penalty of one when attempting to climb smooth surfaces and a penalty of two when attempting to climb slippery surfaces. Climbing gear imparts a bonus of one on climb checks.

The devices skill can be used to disable or manipulate small mechanical traps and mechanisms. Failure does not trigger traps.

The steal skill allows something to be taken without being noticed. Steal can even be used in melee. On failure, the attempt is not noticed but the desired item is not acquired. Items held directly by others may be stolen, but this may not be done secretly.

Consider adding more expert skills if they fit your campaign. Some possibilities include tracking, poison-craft, herbalism, leadership, and chirurgy.

Untrained Skills

The chance of success when using an untrained basic skill is 1 in 6 for characters of any class. There is no chance of success when attempting an expert skill if untrained.

Trained Skills

The chance of success when using a trained skills is 3 in 6.

Mastered Skills

The chance of success when using a mastered skills is 5 in 6.


Simple Weapons
Weapon Properties Trained Mastered
Club bludgeon stun
Dagger throwable auto-hit after grapple
Spear reach throwable interposing
Staff two-handed, bludgeon +1 AC parry (melee)
Light Weapons
Weapon Properties Mastered
Short sword   +2 attack in formation
Short bow   +2 attack with aim
Sling unencumbering,
versatile ammo

Adventurer class

Talysman had this idea about universal first level, the core of which is that all PCs start with the capabilities of first level in all four main classes. That is, a first level character is sort of like a multi-class character that can use all weapons and armor, can prepare one spell, can turn undead as a first level cleric, and can use all thief abilities as a first level thief. However, when advancing, the player must choose a class. Characters never lose those first level abilities, but must choose which set of abilities improve (by advancing in a particular class).

Here is my take on a similar idea, called the adventurer class, which is meant to be the only class available. Yes, this does defeat the underlying idea of class, but that’s okay. It’s a way to play “classless” D&D without actually changing the rules much. This class is probably slightly more powerful than most classes, but definitely weaker than the B/X elf, and maybe weaker than the traditional cleric. If only this class was available, I would use the fighter XP chart (because it is the easiest to remember), but if in mixed company (such as FLAILSNAILS) it would probably make  sense to use the magic-user progression (for balance).

In a certain light, this adventurer class looks like another take on the thief. It could be played in many different ways, depending on the ability scores and choice of equipment. I think it would work well for a swords & sorcery setting. A martial (but stealthy) Conan type would be easy to construct, as would an agile failed wizard’s apprentice (like the Mouser), or a doomed swordsman warlock (Elric). A character with good physical stats would lean toward the fighter archetype, whereas one with high intelligence will be better at magic (due to the intelligence check scroll magic system).

The skill point system is designed so that only one skill choice is needed per level. It still allows individualization, choice, and progress, without the problems and complexity introduced by character builds and optimization.

Intelligence checks for magic use is intended to introduce some uncertainty into sorcery without requiring a heavy mechanical system. Also, given that magic must be found, it avoids the information overload potential of the magic-user class. Most sorcery being consumable (scrolls) avoids the power inflation problems of magic in a campaign (for those of us that enjoy the creative problem solving encouraged by low power campaigns).

The adventurer does not have the cleric’s turning ability, but can accomplish cleric functions with scrolls of protection, holy water, and healing potions.

  • Hit die: 1d6 per level up to level 9, +1 per level above 9
  • Attack: as fighter (+1 per HD if using attack bonus)
  • Save: as fighter
  • Weapons & armor: any (though armor penalizes skills)
  • Scroll magic
  • Adventuring skills

The adventurer uses the skill system created for the JRPG Basic game. Basic skills (climb, listen, search, and stealth) begin at 1 in 6. Expert skills (devices, locks, and steal) begin at 0 in 6. The force skill is 1+STR in 6 and may not be improved. Adventurers gain 1 skill point at first level which may be allocated to any of the basic or expert skills. Another such point is gained every time an adventurer gains a level. No skill may be raised above 5 in 6. Medium (chain) armor penalizes skills other than force by 1. Heavy (plate) armor penalizes skills other than force by 2.

Adventurers have the ability to cast spells from scrolls. To do so, an adventurer must make a successful intelligence check (1d20 less than or equal to the intelligence score). On failure, the scroll is not consumed, and the magic may be attempted again later. Adventurers may also use all magic items.

At first level, and when gaining a level, an adventurer gains +1 to the ability score of the player’s choice (max 18).